Archives For June 2012

A Mosaic….

June 28, 2012 — Leave a comment

Next time I will be starting to relay stories of the early church. Up front I want to make sure you understand that this journey into the history of the church and how we got here will be a mosaic rather than a timeline approach. It will also likely be a “people’s history type account. That is it will where possible be based on accounts of the common people rather than the primary leaders of the time.

It will be a mosaic instead of a timeline. In each post I will give you a small piece of the history that may not necessarily be connected to the previous piece but is an important part of the overall study. It is just too boring, at least for me, to just give the details of  each succeeding year.  When we are finished I think we will have a pretty complete picture of the whole story at least as I can humbly tell it.

I am really excited to get this underway. Sorry for all this preliminary stuff but I want you to understand the method to my madness so to speak. 😉   Please let me know if during this process there are any pieces of the mosaic that you think I should cover. I would love to add them to the ideas list for future study and posts.

Finally, I don’t want to you think that I am only going to cover where the church got it wrong. I will also be giving pieces where they got it right indeed.  I also don’t want you to think that I believe that there was some sort of conspiracy involved to take the church away from Jesus Christ.  I truly believe that most, but probably not all, of the church’s history makers had for the most part a pure heart in the words and practices they might have initiated. But, we must also recognize the corrupting influence of power in us human beings. I’m sure most of the people who helped form the current version of the church thought that the ideas they presented were inspirations from God even if some weren’t.

To further illustrate the idea of a mosaic telling a story here is a picture I took on a recent trip to the Air Force Museum in Dayton Ohio.  It is made up of thousands of other pictures. I hope my mosaic is as clear as this one when it is finally finished. 🙂

Ok, so next time I will finally be putting in the first piece of the mosaic in place. I can’t wait to give you all of the pieces I have discovered to date. But I have many more to yet be fabricated. I pray you will learn as much from this study as I have and will.

Until then I bid you peace…..

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Rummage Sales

June 25, 2012 — 2 Comments

Before I get into the “details” I wanted to throw out another unique way of looking at church history.  Here is the way  author Phyllis Tickle describes church history in her book entitled The Great Emergence :

The only way to understand what is currently happening to us as twenty-first-century Christians in North America is first to understand that about every five hundred years the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale. And, he (Rev Mark Dyer) goes on to say, we are living in and through one of those five-hundred-year sales.

Now, while the bishop may be using a bit of humor to make a point, his is nonetheless a deadly serious and exquisitely accurate point. Any usable discussion of the Great Emergence and what is happening in Christianity today must commence with yesterday and a discussion of history. Only history can expose the patterns and confluences of the past in such a way as to help us identify the patterns and flow of our own times and occupy them more faithfully. The first pattern that we must consider as relevant to the Great Emergence is Bishop Dyer’s rummage sale, which, as a pattern, is not only foundational to our understanding but also psychologically very reassuring for most of us.

That is, as Bishop Dyer observes, about every five hundred years the empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be at that time, become an intolerable carapace that must be shattered in order that renewal and new growth may occur. When that mighty upheaval happens, history shows us, there are always at least three consistent results or corollary events. First, a new, more vital form of Christianity does indeed emerge. Second, the organized expression of Christianity which up until then had been the dominant one is reconstituted into a more pure and less ossified expression of its former self.

While Phyllis Tickle calls the current age the Great Emergence from what I can glean it is also analogous with Harvey Cox’s the age of the spirit. The term emergence has been overused already and its meaning therefore is not yet solidified. We will get into that in future posts. I may also flesh out just what those five hundred year milestones are. A rummage sale seems to be a very effective way of describing the about-faces that the church has done throughout its history.

Until the next time I bid you peace….

I realize that due to trying to keep the last post brief I did not fully explain the three ages (Age of Faith, Age of Belief, Age of the Spirit) very well so I am taking another shot at it here. As a quote to explain it further I am using one from Diane Butler Bass in her book entitled Christianity After Religion. I realize it is kind of strange to use one author quoting another but I  believe this quote is the most descriptive with the fewest words of any I currently have in my database. (I’m and information technology guy so of course I have a database and it is growing daily 😉 )

Harvey Cox proposed that Christianity reflects this broader transformation regarding human knowledge and experience by dividing church history into three ages: the Age of Faith, the Age of Belief, and the Age of the Spirit. During the first period, roughly from the time of Jesus to 400 CE, Christianity was understood as a way of life based upon faith (i.e., trust) in Jesus. Or, as Cox states, To be a Christian meant to live in his Spirit, embrace his hope, and to follow him in the work that he had begun.

Between 300 and 400, however, this dynamic sense of living in Jesus was displaced by an increasing emphasis on creeds and beliefs, leading Professor Cox to claim that this tendency increased until nascent beliefs thickened into catechisms, replacing faith in Jesus with tenets about him….

From an energetic movement of faith [Christianity] coagulated into a phalanx of required beliefs. Cox argues that the Age of Belief lasted some fifteen centuries and began to give way around 1900, its demise increasing in speed and urgency through the twentieth century.

We have now entered into a new phase of Christian history, which he calls the Age of the Spirit. If the Age of Faith was a time of faith in Jesus and the Age of Belief a period of belief about Christ, the Age of the Spirit is best understood as a Christianity based in an “experience of Jesus.” 

What I plan on doing, at least initially, is to flesh out this history with facts and examples. Initially we will try to understand the true nature of the early Christians and how they went about living their faith. I can’t wait until then so I am going to tell you that they did a much better job of being followers of Jesus Christ than we have for generations since them! What they did and how they did it was impressive indeed especially given that many of the leaders were fed to the lions because of their faith.

I will also be covering the Age of Beliefs to understand just how all these different beliefs, and in particular creeds came from. I think you will be surprised how much human hands are involved.  I will be covering heretics turned saints and saints turned heretics as well. This period and this topic is a very interesting one for me.

Finally I will take the concept of the Age of the Spirit. Some call it the Great Emergence and some have other names for it but I think they are all trying to reach the same point. A point where we return to true faith and jettison some of our previously held man-made beliefs.

Until next time I wish you peace….

In this post I will try to give you a very high level view of what I believe is the critical history of the church.  Of course, as this study progresses there might be some things I change likely my mind about.  As with most everything else I am open to different views and one of them may change my overall concepts (but I kind of doubt it 😉 )

Before I get into the view I will be using I want to give you some idea of other ways church history has been viewed:

Here is a very colorful view showing church history from an orthodox perspective. They show that the orthodox church is the one that has had little change through the ages whereas the Roman Catholic and all its off-shoots have radically changed through the years.  They take great pride in saying that they don’t change. Since change is something that human nature seems to generally bristle against this view has some appeal.

Another view similar to the first shows basically the same shape but concentrates on more detail accounts of historic events. This is probably the dominant view of many Christian organizations today.

Here is a high level view, similar to what I will be using, that labels each period in church history based on the most significant events. I suspect that this came from a protestant author in that it deems the period after the reformation as the “modern” age. Some have, among other names, separated this age into modern and post-modern.

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Now let’s get on to the view I will be initially focusing on. I will be covering three basic ages of the church. I couldn’t find a fancy graph as above for this view  so I will be covering it with bullet items instead:

  • The Age of Faith — This period began with the ascension of Christ and ended around 358AD.  I have many stories and such to try and understand just what these early Christians thought and believed.
  •  The Age of Beliefs —  This period spanned between 358CE to around 1900CE. This was the period that all of the many man made beliefs about Christ were formulated.
  • Age of the Spirit. — This period started around 1900 and continue through to the unforeseeable future.

As I have mentioned before these three ages were formulated by Harvey Cox in his book The Future Of Faith.

Next time I will be fleshing out these three ages in more detail. If you want to see a more detailed view see the book.

Until then I bid you peace…..

I proclaimed when I started posting this study a couple of weeks ago that I would be giving you a history of the church. In studying this topic I was quick to learn that there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of different versions of the history of the church. If you are a Calvinist your history is quite different than if you are a Catholic or Lutheran and especially an Eastern Orthodox. Everyone looks at history from their own perspective. Some like to concentrate only on the inspiring parts; I will be showing you the warts as well.

The last few weeks I have been collecting various versions of history and will give you a highlight soon. Some versions of history concentrate on Apostolic succession, others almost start their history at the Reformation. If you are a Fundamentalist you might even start in the early twentieth century for that is when your version of Christianity started.  For me the history of the church starts after Christ left this earth and is continuing even now. I do believe that the best years of the church are ahead of it instead of behind. But my version of future history will depend on whether Christians are able to put some things that they currently hold, maybe even doctrine, behind them so that the path going forward can be accomplished. Of course I will explain this further during this study but that should be enough to peak your interest. 🙂

They say that “History belongs to the Victors”. The history I will be giving you here will have a healthy dose of  the defeated as well. I believe that some of the defeated (heretics if you will) have value even though the power struggles of the time deemed them worthless.

I must admit, if you haven’t figured it out already,  my view of the church at least going forward is a progressive one.  I think that Christianity as it stands today is very passive and that is not what Jesus intended his church to be.  Some say that the total purpose of Christ was to die for our sins. If that were the case then the Bible should jump from his birth directly to his death as nothing else really matters. I think an equal purpose was for Jesus to show us how to live. So, of course my history will show what happened to stifle that  idea and how we can overcome the do-nothing Christian mentality going forward.

I hope that even if you don’t agree with everything I have said here that you continue on with me in this study and keep an open mind as to it worthiness. We all want to do what the Lord intended us to do while we are on this earth. That is why we pray that God’s will be done. I will be open to your ideas about that and I hope you will be open to mine.

Ok, five posts getting ready for the study is enough. Next time I will be giving you a macro-view of my version of church history and maybe some brief glimpses of the other versions.

Until then I bid you peace….

Source:Ashamed Not to be a Heretic: Harry Emerson Fosdick – QuakerQuaker.

“If the day ever comes when men care so little for the basic Christian experiences and revelations of truth that they cease trying to rethink them in more adequate terms, see them in the light of freshly acquired knowledge, and interpret them anew for new days, then Christianity will be finished.”

Here is an interesting post by a Quaker about a Presbyterian minister who was driven from the pulpit by fundamentalists in 1922 due to straying from the established doctrine of the time. He fought the first waves of fundamentalism put forward by William Jennings Brian. Harry Emerson Fosdick went on to become very famous for his sermons and books. Check out his books on Amazon. He still has more than thirty books people continue to buy. I picked up his book entitled “Christianity and Progress” on my e-reader for future reading. I look forward to my introduction to another religious person who was not ashamed to be a heretic.

. His most notable quote from that time was as reported on the post

“They call me a heretic. Well, I am a heretic if conventional orthodoxy is the standard. I should be ashamed to live in this generation and not be a heretic.”

About My Sources…

June 11, 2012 — 2 Comments

This post is about some of my sources of info for the study I am presently undertaking on church history and how we got to where we are today.

I have read scores of books on church history the last few years and continue reading them for this study. I have mentioned already there is one that influenced me greatly and it is one of the reasons I am doing this study. That book by Harvey Cox and is entitled Future of Faith. Here is a small bio of him found from Wikipedia:

Harvey Gallagher Cox, Jr. (born May 19, 1929 in Malvern, Pennsylvania) is one of the preeminent theologians in the United States and served as Hollis Research Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School, until his retirement in October 2009.  …

Cox was ordained as an American Baptist minister in 1957, and started teaching as an assistant professor at the Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts. He then began teaching at the Harvard Divinity School in 1965 and in 1969 became a full professor.

Two books that introduced me to the concept of the “emergent ” church were Christianity after Religion by Diane Butler Bass and The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle. As we will find in this study, especially for the future section, the phrase emergent church has been tagged onto a wide variety of different concepts. The one presented in these two books seem to offer the brightest possibilities. Of course there are dozens of other books that go into the details of church history and where we might be going in the future. Some of those authors include Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, Robin Meyers, Richard Rohr, Marcus Borg, Dietrich Bonhoeffer,  Richard Stearns, Leo Tolstoy, and Robert Ingersoll. I thank them all for enlightening me in one area or another. Although I don’t intend to go into the theology details studying other books focused on the early theologians was also good background for this study. Those early writers will likely add a few additional brushstrokes to the portrait presented in this study. Last but absolutely not least in my source is the Book of Acts in my Bible. It continues to be a source of information as well as inspiration.

Other authors have who have influenced my walk with Christ and whom I frequently read are  Greg Boyd, Philip Gulley.  These two guys in particular helped me know that I was not alone in the thoughts I have about modern day Christianity. They will both likely continue to be mentioned frequently here.

I have also been reading quite a bit of cross-denominational things. All of them have influenced me to one degree or another. I discard none of them because of their particular affiliations. I will conclude this post by telling you that Quaker foundational thought, if they even admit to that, is where I am now in my walk with God. And in my humble opinion their non-creedal and non-exclusion stances are probably a critical part of the foundation of the future church.

I do not expect to be capable of completing this task by my own strength so I pray that theHoly Spirit guide me through this study.

Until the next time, I bid you peace….

Women Be Quiet!!!

June 9, 2012 — 10 Comments

1 Timothy 2:11-12 A woman  should learn in quietness and full submission.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;  she must be quiet.  

I have always been troubled by these verses from Paul. I just don’t believe that God intended, especially for all eternity, that women to be quiet and not have any authority over men. Why would he deprive us of so much that women have to offer in almost every area?? Yes, I have heard that the majority of today’s theologians don’t believe that these words actually came from Paul but instead were added by someone later trying to advance a particular agenda.  Like all of these types of controversies it is impossible to discern the truth as the original documents to all of the Biblical text have long since disappeared.

I was certainly pleased to see a response to this verse below.

What’s with the women at Ephesus?

Just as I’ve never heard a sermon against Cretans, I’ve also never heard a sermon on 1 Timothy 2:8, in which Paul tells Timothy, “I want men everywhere to pray, lifting holy hands without anger or disputing” that included a universal dictum that all men everywhere must raise their hands whenever they pray. Nor have I heard a sermon on one of the most common instructions found in the epistles, to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” (1 Corinthians 16:20) Nor have I ever heard of a pastor being removed from the position in keeping with Titus 1:5-6 because one of his or her children had left the faith. (It’s an uncomfortable reality, but if complementarians were as consistent in their application of biblically-based pastoral qualifications as they claim to be, a few of their most prominent spokesmen would have had to resign from their pastoral positions when their children left the faith. They didn’t.)

I haven’t heard any sermons on all of those biblical instructions, but I’ve heard more than I can count on 1 Timothy 2:11, which says, “a woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”

Rachel Held Evans | Blog.

As shown above this response came from Rachel Held Evans blog. This young lady is certainly one I don’t want to be quiet! She is now on my regular read list. Check out the full post by clicking on the label above. She has much more to say about this than is shown above.

I am fully aligned with her that we Christians, especially the fundamentalists among us, pick and choose which verses they decide to take literally. When we quit doing that and take the Bible as an inspired series of stories we just might quit continuously dividing ourselves. I think 39,000 different versions of Christ is enough …

Until the next time I bid you peace….

Some Messy Stuff….

June 7, 2012 — 10 Comments

I know most of us get just about all our knowledge about church history from our church run bible studies. It seems that most of the professional clergy, meaning those who earn money from their participation in church, only seem to want to give us the good side of history.  The old saying that “history belongs to the victors” is also true in the Christian church. It seems local pastor/priests, seminary professors, theologians, and such don’t really come out and tell the average layman just how messy Christian church history is, that is if they even know it themselves. They tend to want you to see a very logical and God-guided progression from point A to point B to point C.

After even my initial studies I found that church history is a very messy topic indeed. It is full of contradictions and power struggles. There is definitely a dark side in the history of the church that often doesn’t come to light. In that way it pretty much reflects the world around it. Like it or not most of the struggles are around getting and maintaining power. Of course with power also comes one degree of corruption. Church history has some of that also.

One of the things I will be discussing soon is about faith and belief. Many today tend to blend these two things together but they were in fact VERY different things in the early church.  Another advanced warning is that although our Bible contains early church history it is by no means the only source. There have been recent discoveries that shed additional and sometimes contradictory light on what actually happened during those early years.    In this study we will be looking at some of the gospels and other early writings that were not included in the fourth century compilation of our current day bible. Some of them, as is even possible with the four in our bible, are likely forgeries meaning that they were not written by the person identified in their titles. But even the forgeries are very useful in helping to give us the complete story.

I will be talking quite extensively about the effect the Roman ruler Constantine had on the history of the church. In short he changed everything and some, if not much of it, was for the worse rather than the better. I was surprised just how much detail is available from this period of church history.

That is enough for now. As you can see from even this post we will be looking into corners of church history that are not typically taught to laymen such as us.  Of course I will be giving the good but I will not skip over the bad. It also is an integral part of church history. In order to make things better tomorrow we need to know the whole story of how we got to where we are today. I’m not sure just how long this study will run so I will just let it run its course. It would not surprise me to see this study exceed the three years of the one into Jesus’ words but I have no way of knowing that right now..

Until the next time I bid you peace…..

Many people say they have faith in Jesus but I’m not sure they really know what they mean by that.  The  word itself has been so modified by man over the years.  Among other things I think faith means illumination..  When you have faith it sheds light on the meaning of your life and puts everything into clearer perspective…. It means loving God and loving your neighbor.